The family of detained Tanzanian journalist Erick Kabendera said he was still uncertain about whether he would be be allowed to attend his mother’s funeral, even as they go about making burial arrangements following her death Tuesday morning.
“Most of us know the sadness of losing a mother but to Kabendera it was too difficult because he wasn’t by her bedside and isn’t sure if he could attend her funeral,” a family member said.
Funeral arrangements are underway as the family plans to transport the body on Friday for burial in Bukoba, northwestern Tanzania.
In an emotional appeal, Mr Kabendera said he wished that his deceased 80 year-old mother be given a befitting burial as he would have done if he was not incarcerated, according to his lawyer Jebra Kambole.
The journalist received the shocking news of the death of his ailing mother from Mr Kambole at Segerea prison in Dar es Salaam where he has been held since July when he was arrested and charged with unbailable criminal offences.
According to Mr Kambole, Kabendera was despondent upon being told that Verdiana Mjwahuzi had died at Amana Hospital where she was admitted for treatment.
“He was in apparent shock and somewhat panicked when we broke the sad news to him. He remained silent for a long time and did not utter a word.”
“It was both a tough moment for us and for him as well. He changed immediately and was not the usual Kabendera. It was our turn to console him in that moment of reflection,” said Mr Kambole who is representing the troubled journalist in the case.
According to him, the family was in haste to break the news first-hand ahead of an anticipated social media storm.
After breaking the news, the visiting party left him alone for more than two hours to digest the news as reality of losing his mother sunk in.
Before her death, Ms Mjwahuzi twice made a public appeal for the release of her son who she said was her sole breadwinner.
At the time of his arrest from his Tegeta home in Dar es Salaam, the octogenarian was recuperating from there. She witnessed plainclothes officers drag her son away into a waiting car which sped off.
Mr Kabendera has not been back home since, amid a few days of uncertainty about his whereabouts.
He was later charged with money laundering, tax evasion and leading organised crime, charges which have been roundly condemned as trumped up to punish him over his work as an investigative freelancer.
“He was pleased and encouraged upon hearing that the public had poured their heart out, especially on social media on the passing of his mother and offered prayers and support,” Mr Kambole said.
“He thanked all those who offered condolences and prayers for the family. He said he was touched by the love everyone was showing and wished that they accord his mother the funeral she may have wished from him.”
Mr Kabendera revealed that Ms Mjwahuzi wished to be buried in her native Bukoba region.
Scores of people trooped to the home to condole with the family as more messages of goodwill streamed in on social media.
The US embassy also sent a message to the family.
“Our condolences to Eric Kabendera and his entire family in the passing of their beloved mother Veridiana Mjwahuzi. My she rest in peace,” the embassy tweeted.
Two weeks ago, Ms Mjwahuzi spoke to the media in tears while pleading with President John Magufuli to pardon and free her son.
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